Saturday, December 13, 2008

WBRH: Where mercy met grace

The damnedest thing about adolescence is that so many of us survive it.

This strange fact is a good starting point for a discussion about grace. Grace means that a lot of the really ill-considered things we do as youngsters -- Ill-considered? More like dumb . . . silly . . . perilous . . . idiotic -- end up as fodder for funny stories told by middle-aged survivors of their own youthful folly.

They also serve as fodder for middle-age worries that the young'uns we know and love will find out we once were as dumb as they, and will somehow use this Kryptonite against us.

A BUNCH of us 1979 graduates of Baton Rouge Magnet High recently have been getting reacquainted on Facebook. Facebook -- amazing thing, that. Naturally, all the old yearbook photographers have started posting yellowed pictures of our glory days.

And recently, one classmate was confronted by a picture of her underaged self at Mr. Gatti's pizza, pitcher of beer before her.

"Oh, @#$%! If my daughter sees this picture, I am toast."

Sooner or later, we all end up throwing ourselves upon the mercy of the court and wondering whether "older and wiser now" is a winning defense against capital hypocrisy charges.

Thirty years ago at Baton Rouge High, I wasn't much for boozing it up at Mr. Gatti's. I was more of a Sicily's beer person, myself.

I remember one time, a high-school radio colleague and I got bored during our WBRH class period. We were in the studios of 90.1 FM by ourselves, and at some point we developed a mighty thirst.

Well, we were on the air, so we couldn't sneak over to Sicily's, the pizza-and-beer joint just off campus. Now, we were both already 18 back when that made you legal, so we had a brilliant plan . . . we gave an underage classmate some money and sent her over to Sicily's to get us a couple of big-ass beers.

Which we proceeded to drink at the station. During class. In violation of all manner of federal and school regulations.

What could go wrong? Who would know?

Well. . . .

WE WERE ABOUT half done with our beers when we saw someone walk into the station. It was Charley Vance, who was filling in for radio teacher/WBRH general manager John Dobbs that semester.


So, my anonymous colleague -- let's call him "Bud" (his real nickname) -- and I were madly stashing our beers in studio cabinets and putting on our angelic, what-me-worry faces when Charley walked in the studio.

He sniffed the air.

"It smells like a damn brewery in here."

Busted. Dead. Going to get expelled and lose our federal Third Class operator's licenses.

WORSE, we were going to have to pour out our beer.

"Y'all better hurry up and finish your beer before Mrs. Guillot walks in." Mrs. Guillot being the principal, and someone you'd just as soon not mess with.

Mr. Vance exited stage right, an angel of mercy and a humble agent of true grace.
Gratuitous, unmerited help at a moment when it all could have gone south. Very south.

I don't know where Charley Vance is today, but if somebody sees him, tell him I owe him a case of whatever fine brew he would like.

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